Stevens team to hand over trial soon

A jury could begin deliberations Monday in Sen. Ted Stevens' corruption case, leading to the possibility of a verdict less than two weeks before the veteran Republican stands for re-election in Alaska.

Stevens' lawyers should finish their defense late today or Thursday, and prosecutors will have the opportunity to present rebuttal witnesses. They'll likely have closing arguments Monday, said U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan, then he'll give jurors the case.

On Tuesday, lawyers for the senator continued to work to sow doubt in the minds of the jury as part of their effort to prove the central theme of their defense: that Stevens thought he was paying every bill he was given for renovations to his home in Alaska.

They bolstered their case with testimony from Augie Paone, the Anchorage carpenter who did the bulk of the renovations that doubled the size of Stevens' A-frame.

Stevens, 84, is on trial on charges that he lied on the Senate financial-disclosure forms. He's accused of failing to report gifts and home renovations worth more than $250,000, chiefly from VECO Corp. and its former chief executive, Bill Allen, who was prosecution's star witness.

Prosecutors made the case that VECO paid for much of the work, including the decks, plumbing and a complete electrical overhaul. To that end, jurors heard exhaustive testimony from VECO employees who worked on Stevens' home yet never submitted bills for their work.

But Paone, a defense witness, said Tuesday that he was very specific about billing the Stevenses for plumbing and electrical supplies, suggesting Stevens and his wife could have thought they were paying for everything themselves.

Paone said Stevens' wife, Catherine, paid him promptly when he sent the first five bills.

But when Paone began to testify about the sixth bill, for $19,818, the judge stopped him, based on objections from prosecutors. In their opening statements, Stevens' attorneys told jurors that Paone was told by Allen and the construction foreman, Robert “Rocky” Williams, that he was going to “eat that bill.” Prosecutors argued that Paone's testimony Tuesday seemed likely to contradict his testimony to a grand jury, where he said that Allen never explicitly said he would “eat” the bill, but implied it.